?> CHEF ON THE ROCKS by Dario Milano for Shoot the Chef 2013. Behind the scenes. | Dario Milano Photography

CHEF ON THE ROCKS by Dario Milano for Shoot the Chef 2013. Behind the scenes.

As a professional photographer, I am a competitive and ambitious guy and I love to challenge myself. Even more so when the opportunity arises to do something ” different ” ,  extraordinary, or just not ordinary ( i guess you can put it that way ) – my ” ordinary ” being food photography and food styling ( which i love hips don’t get me wrong…).


Alessandro Pavoni photographed by Dario Milano

So I put my reputation on the line, once again, after winning last year’s edition of ” Shoot the Chef “ photographic competition, part of Good Food Month and Crave Sydney, with my picture of Mike McEnearney of Kitchen by Mike, titled ” Done and dusted “. This year I wanted to execute a very different type of image, and I hope the critics will appreciate it as much as they did appreciate last year’s photograph; I certainly do 🙂 To do so, I photographed my fellow countryman Alessandro Pavoni, owner and chef of Ormeggio restaurant, at the Spit, in Sydney. Shoot the Chef is a portraiture competition, and it’s a fun one to do; the brief is fairly simple: shoot a chef . Interpretation is open, and creativity is the way to go; you have to be bold and take risks! Personally, i like a portrait to tell a bit of the story of its character , so this photo is not just about the chef, it’s also about the man. My philosophy is simple: preparation is the key to a smooth and successful shoot and it’s always, definitely, a team work. I truly believe the strongest point of a great photographer is being capable of making the right decisions and choosing the most suitable collaborators, for every circumstance. So the idea for ” Chef on the rocks “ came from Alessandro; he is a restless giant of a man who, in his free time ( ? ) can still find the energy to ride motorbikes, surf, play golf and ….. rock climb ! he gave the input for the shoot and i played along with it, making it my assignment.


We were to shoot at Palm Beach boulders, two large and prominent stand-alone boulders on the sand at Palm Beach, Sydney northern beaches. I had never been there before and we didn’t have much time to make it happen as Alessandro was due to fly over to italy in just over a week. Google is where I always start from, so I firstly checked out all the available information online, and I started gaining a better understanding of the possible scenario.

Then I inspected the site not one, but three times, and at different times of day to assess the light and mock up a composition. The rock Alessandro is hanging himself off is standing just short of a metre and half above ground so I opted for a fisheye lens ( which I hired for the occasion ) to produce a strong visual distortion and create a wide panoramic image. It was a big gamble, but it paid off: without the ultra wide angle lens the shot, from that angle, would not have been physically possible anyway; and i really wanted to create a strong sense of contest too. Lighting was the other huge gamble i took: i wanted to include the sunrise in the shot, i wanted the backlight, i wanted a warm feel, and i wanted to play the shot along the complementary orange-blue colour scheme with Alessandro wearing his whites ( and climbing shorts ) popping right out of the scene. Initially i thought I was going to light it from scratch, but I abandoned the idea in favour of a totally natural feel. So i decided to shoot at sunrise, also hoping that a handheld reflector would be sufficient to fill the shadows on my subject who was facing away from the light source. I tested that too and it worked, with my great relief. I had a plan, now I needed just a bit of luck; on the day we scheduled the shoot, the weather was uncertain and I called it off. We pushed it back a few days and shot on a sunday, just the day before Alessandro was leaving to Italy; this time the weather was perfect, the rising sun a massive, red, incandescent ball quickly emerging at the horizon and shining a beautiful warm light on us.

What more can i say? I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. I had some props with me ( including fresh blue swimmer crabs.. ) and we also tried to play with water, literally bucketing cold ocean water down on Alessandro as he attached himself to the rock, but in the end I preferred a simpler image, and I think the bbq tongs, together with the chef’s jacket, are enough to tell the story of him as a chef. If you like my picture of Alessandro, you can express your appreciation by hitting the LIKE button next to it in the Stackla Gallery, here: http://shootthechef.stackla.com/?p=twitterentries . You have to scroll down a bit to find my image. Check out the other entries too, there are some nice concepts in there… I am blessed to be able to do what I do and to have such amazing friends to help me out with these personal projects. The biggest thank you goes to Franz Scheurer for the support and for the beautiful behind the scenes pictures, and thank you also Graeme and Magda for waking up early and coming along to help. Alessandro, thank you for accepting with such enthusiasm to be my subject for Shoot the Chef 2013; this is one image I am really proud of . Cheers!

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